How introverted are you? Enough to notice visible effects on your confidence? Your health? Your drinking habits?
If like me, you’re the secret kind-of introvert (going above and beyond every single day to come across as anything but shy because you annoy yourself so much), you’ll appreciate the, erm, interesting challenge I faced recently. I was with almost-strangers (albeit incredibly lovely almost-strangers), non-stop, away for two days on a work training programme. Endless networking, dinner, a hotel, presentations, name badges, the works. Hell, basically.
As I stood up to do a presentation with my new group of mates, I couldn’t help but notice the subtle shaky hands of pretty much everyone in my group, despite their confident, assuring voices. I wondered just how many people in the room felt exactly like me. Shy on the inside, determined to hide it, drained by the unnatural performance. I felt so bloody tired the whole time and I knew exactly why. Introverts recharge their energy levels by being alone, while extroverts tend to feel energised by socialising. So in a group of 25 people, it was probable that half of us were becoming more and more fatigued, while the other half were actually gaining energy. There was no ‘alone time’, other than peeing and sleeping. I must have gone to the bathroom at least 10 times just to get it together. Which can’t be right.
I wonder if people persons (people people?) are more likely to succeed in life than people who prefer their own company. Actually, I don’t wonder. It seems pretty obvious. If you live by ‘the system’, which in my experience means working in a busy, open-plan office, competing to have your voice heard in meetings and constantly networking, then anyone with introverted tendencies is going to have to put on a self-sacrificing show if they want to do well. You could say I’m in the wrong job, but I’d say writing is pretty spot on for an introvert.
What I’m getting at is that over the last three months (exactly three months since I started my new job) I have felt more tired, drained, wiped out, sapped of energy, dead practically, than I can last remember. My job is challenging and interesting, sometimes I work late and often I work through lunch, but it’s nowhere near as taxing as the results seem to suggest. Not the job itself anyway. I’ve kind of realised that it’s actually the whole ‘wearing a different hat at work’ thing that’s done it. Thanks to years of repressing my shyness, my faux confidence comes as naturally to me as my desire to be alone. But when it’s switched on 24/7, my poor introvert-style energy levels start to wear thin.
Then the weekend comes and I treat my self to a teeny bit of wine. And sometimes dancing because I have forgotten how tired I am.
And the cycle of tiredness continues.
It has to stop.
Ok, so my introverted nature isn’t directly damaging my health, but my extreme fatigue and desire to drink away my stresses isn’t exactly a healthy bi-product. I’m in no way inclined to take on a more reserved personality at work (or ever), so I’m somewhat forced to address this whole drinking thing. My sister has been training to run a half marathon and says she can notice a difference in her performance after just one drink the night before. This scares me a bit.
Let me make this clear, I’m by no means an alcoholic. I only really drink at the weekends. But I will hold my hands up and say I’m pretty alcohol dependent. I would really struggle to give it up. I like drinking. A lot.
What I’ve stopped enjoying is devoting every other Sunday to my sofa.
Another product of having demanding job is the horrifying realisation of how precious, rare and easily wasted your free time is. Precious enough to have a break from blogging (it’s been a while, I know), but also precious enough to consider sacking off the pub in favour of something more rewarding.
Or maybe I’m just getting old.
All I know is that being an introvert has never held me back, but being hungover certainly has (again see lack of blogging).
Believe it or not, you have far more control over your personality than you might think. Throw a hefty hangover into the mix and you’re just putting another barrier between you and the person you really want to be. Drinking might help you to feel confident and stress-free at the time, but it shits all over the long game.
Blogger, Steph Style, a good friend of mine, recently wrote a really insightful post about how she overcame her shyness. She’s one of the most productive, time efficient, go-getters I know. She’s also naturally shy on the inside like me (and so many of us) yet never ever comes across as anything but enthusiastic and outgoing. She works in PR. Not your average job for an introvert. Because really, in more ways than you might dare to believe, your life is your choice. Read her post here.
And here are my 5 tips on being confident for introverts:
1. Ignore the voice in your head that automatically says ‘no’ every time someone asks if you’d like to meet up. Give ‘yes’ a chance and you’ll build up evidence for why it’s usually a good idea. It becomes easier every time, trust me. Nobody looks back and thinks ‘I’m so glad I said no to all those fun things I was invited to.’
2. Stop overthinking what to say in a group conversation. Nobody analyses your words like you do. Better to put your thoughts out there than sit there all quiet. Concentrate on listening to what other people are saying rather than indulging that internal monologue in your head that’s louder than the interesting people around you.
3. Don’t play with your hair, bite your lip, fidget in your seat or hunch your back. Stand tall, make eye contact with people, say hello to everyone you vaguely know, ask questions, be conscious of speaking a fraction louder of what comes naturally.
4. Make an effort with your appearance. When you know you look your best, confidence becomes a lot more accessible.
5. Know when you’ve reached your limited for socialising. Take a moment, an evening or a weekend to recharge your batteries.
And recharge is exactly what I’m taking the time to do right now. You can only push your mind and your body so far. Recognising when it’s time to have a few weeks off drinking, or some time to yourself to just relax is incredibly important for your health.
You’ll be amazed how much more productive you can be.